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Wednesday, 05 June 2013 21:24

In Bruins-Pens series, goaltending has been interesting subplot

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Photo: Associated Press

BOSTON--  The difference is quite interesting, almost staggering. The differences in the overall performance of the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins in this series are noticeable, but within the category of performances lies an interesting subplot. The goaltending in this series provides a stark contrast, and this contrast has undoubtedly helped the Black and Gold gain a substantial edge over their Steel City adversaries.

On the Penguins’ bench lies uncertainty. Tomas Vokoun had been the replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury ever since Fleury’s meltdown against the Islanders , but after giving up three goals in 16:31 total ice time Monday evening, it was the former number one overall pick sliding back into the crease. He did not fare much better either, also allowing three goals in 43:24 total ice time.  This was the first time in the series that Pittsburgh’s goaltending “broke” per say. Vokoun “bended” slightly in Game One Saturday night, allowing three goals on 30 shots, including a weak goal that was scored by David Krejci at the 4:04 mark in the first frame.  Even still, had he not saved the other 27 shots, a good portion of them great chances by the Bruins, Saturday’s game could have been a lot worse.

Monday however, was a flip of the script. Instead of an admirable performance like the one shown on Saturday, Vokoun looked lost on Monday. He gave up a rebound out of a scramble to Nathan Horton in the first period which resulted in a goal, very uncharacteristic of the goalie. The tic-tac passing of the Bruins seemed like it was too much for him as was the case on the Krejci goal in the first period, shortly after Horton’s tally. Appearing to be uncomfortable in the crease and with the Penguins grasping at straws, looking for anything to spark a change in momentum, they brought back Fleury. After Brandon Sutter scored a goal to cut the lead to 3-1, Brad Marchand put a tally home to make it a 4-1 game, nulling any momentum the goalie substitution gave the Pens. Fleury looked almost as lost as Vokoun at times and by the end of the game, the pair collectively had given up six goals.

In the meantime, life has been pretty good for Tuukka Rask. Unlike his opposition, he has been a stone wall, only giving up one goal in the two games he has played. In Game One, he stopped all of Pittsburgh’s 29 shots and recorded Boston’s first playoff shutout since Tim Thomas blanked the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, on the way to a victory.

Giving up one goal in two contests is an impressive feat. Perhaps more remarkable is his calm presence in net.  Unlike the Pittsburgh duo, he has looked composed, rarely rattled and his calm demeanor in net has seemed to translate to his teammates on the ice. Even after he gave up that one goal to Sutter on Monday with the building going crazy and Pittsburgh beginning to surge, he stayed calm and did not allow another goal for the rest of the evening. That is an impressive feat considering the offensive starpower and offensive skill that the Penguins possess with players like Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla and Evegeni Malkin leading the attack.

It is safe to say that goaltending has changed the landscape of this series, and it should be interesting to see how the two goalies perform tonight, one looking to gain a 3-0 series lead, and the other with his back against the wall.